Ear Infections: Cause, Treatment, and Prevention
- Acute otitis media or ear infection affects the middle ear. Although infections are common in children, they also occur in adults.
- Often ear infections clear out on their own, but sometimes antibiotics are given to clear up bacteria. The more severe ear infections lead to hearing loss.
What Causes Ear Infections?
- Most ear infections are caused by a virus or bacteria, and it affects the middle ear. They can also result from other illnesses that cause congestion and swelling of the throat, nasal passage, and Eustachian like allergies, cold, or flu.
- Eustachian tubes are narrow tubes that run from the back of the throat, behind the nasal passage, to the middle of the ear. These pairs of tubes regulate air pressure in the middle of the ear, drain secretion, and refresh the air in the ear.
- When the tubes become swollen, they can cause fluid buildup in the ear, which can be infected, causing an ear infection.
- Ear infections in children
Children have narrower Eustachian tubes, which make it hard to drain the fluid; that’s why they are mostly affected. Furthermore, they have larger adenoids (found in the back of the nose) that can swell, get irritated, and cause an ear infection.
Sometimes swelling of the middle ear can occur without a bacteria or viral infection but as a result of blockage or dysfunction of the Eustachian tubes.
Certain factors can increase the risk of ear infection;
- Age. Ear infection affects children from six months to two years because their immune system is immature and still developing
- Children raised in a group setting are more exposed to infections like a common cold
- Allergies which mostly occur during the flu seasons
- Infant feeding. An ear infection can affect infants who feed while lying down
- Poor air quality due to smoke or air pollution can increase the risk
- Cleft palate. Children with cleft palate have different bone structures and muscles, which makes them susceptible.
Symptoms to Look Out For
Some of the ear infection symptoms include ear pain when lying down, pressure in the ear, fussiness in infants, hearing loss, drainage of pus-like fluid, loss of balance, and headaches.
Ear symptoms clear out after some time. However, recurrent infections can be an indication of other conditions. So, visit our 24-hour emergency room in Baytown if your child experiences severe pain, they have pus or bloody discharge from the ear, sleeplessness, irritability, if the infant is less than six months.
Ear infections are curable and don’t cause short-term complications. However, some people tend to have recurring infections, which can lead to other serious problems.
- Hearing loss. Infections can cause hearing loss, but it can become permanent if there is damage to the eardrum or ear structures.
- Spreading of the infection. Bacterial infections that are unresponsive or left untreated can spread to surrounding tissues. For instance, Mastoid infection can result in damage in the bone and also the formation of cysts.
- Developmental delays. Hearing impairment in infants and toddlers may cause a delay in speech and development skills.
When you visit Altus Baytown ER, we will conduct an assessment using the pneumatic otoscope tool to diagnose. We may also do Tympanometry, which measures the movement of the eardrum. In most cases, we employ the wait-and-see-approach as the symptoms will clear up.
Our doctors may, however, prescribe medication to relieve discomfort and anesthetic drops to relieve pain in the eardrum, but this is recommended for people who don’t have a tear or hole in the ear.
Also, they may recommend antibiotic therapy for an ear infection, depending on the severity of the infection.
Are Ear Infections Preventable?
Yes, if you;
- Prevent common cold and flu by practicing proper hygiene and avoiding overcrowded places
- Avoid smoking or second-hand smoke
- Get you children vaccinate, if possible
- Breastfeed your infants. If you choose to bottle-feed, then hold your child in the upper position while feeding.
Schedule an Appointment
Ear infections are treatable and curable if caught early. Visit any of our ER centers near you, or our 24-hour Emergency Center in Baytown if you suspect you have any persistent ear pain, headaches, or discharge of pus-like fluid from your ears.